It started at 7 AM on an asphalt lot behind a school. Two men stood, unsure of themselves.
One wore shoes that would be rejected by Goodwill, an XL hoodie hiding most of his fidgeting, except for hands that revealed his anxiety.
The other bore the remnants of a leftover beard, his dark, stonish eyes sinking into the shade of a dirty, worn-down baseball cap protecting him from a long-time fear of public speaking. Had you found this man in a different circumstance, maybe sitting down on a street, you would be compelled to give your change or try to provide a hot meal. By now, an astute reader may have guessed that this man was none other Jim Gerencser, owner of the very successful Nationwide Auto Services and founder of the then-recently created Early Recognition is Critical.
The other man was me, with my choice of athletic clothing rivaling that of a 95-year-old who had decided that old age is a gift, not a curse, and made comfort his virtue.
Surrounding us, hooligans moonlighting as students ran amok. The high-walled concrete and metal fence that trapped us made me recall the show “Prison Break”, and I checked my body for tattoos that hid an escape plan. There were none. I had no way of getting out of it — I was about to do the first ever E.R.I.C. school clinic.
Once the wardens, moonlighting as teachers, brought the chaos to attention, Jim took the lead, blasting through stories, rules, spirit of the game, theories, cancer symptoms, mottos, analogies and looping back to irrelevant stories. It was a healthy, massive, stew of words, and the kids treated it as such, as kids hate healthy stews, and their appetite for information dwindled quickly.
I grabbed the reins from Jim, hoping to steer our E.R.I.C. carriage into the beautiful pastures of ultimate. However, I quickly realized these were not the horses I was used to leading. Not even close. The horses I usually taught were already saddled to the ways of ultimate and chomping at the bit to learn more. However these were harder to teach than even wild horses — for these were middle schoolers.
Discombobulated is the word I would use to describe our very first E.R.I.C. clinic. Although everyone had fun (especially the teachers who basically got the day off), it was not much better than throwing bunch of discs into a pack of wild horses. Between the physical wounds from playing on cement and the mental scars from dealing with kids, we were spent, and proceeded to heal our wounds at a local pub. Rehashing the day, we both came to the conclusion that E.R.I.C. had serious potential, but we had a lot of work to do.
Thankfully, others shared our vision, and since then E.R.I.C. has evolved as smarter people become involved and helped mold the message and structure into something students could enjoy, learn and participate. We added more coaches, figured out attention spans, got a got better at showing off cool things (like how Dylan Freechild can throw further than Jimmy Mickle), and we got a lot more discs.
Let’s have a quick genuine moment, rare for the Beau Knows Blog. Thank you sincerely to Discraft for providing discounted discs and for dealing with Jim and myself, the tweedledee and tweedledum of getting stuff done. Because of E.R.I.C. donations and Discraft’s generosity, we are able to give discs to kids who never would have gotten one. Seeing the look on their faces when they get a disc is simply uplifting, and leaving the school with kids playing playing catch while laughing and running about is almost enough to make me want a child of my own. Then I get on a airplane and the child behind me kicks my seat while the baby next to me screams till he throws up, and I remember there are other things in life that I would rather help raise.
Finally, after raising this humble little non-profit for three years, it’s ready to be unleashed on the rest of the country in the form of a bus tour. Think rock star tour, except without rock, drugs, stars or fans.. Alright, let’s just start with the bus. We have a bus. It’s currently naked and about get body-wrapped with enough color to make a rainbow jealous.
Next comes the best part. We fill the freshly-painted bus with talented people. Educators, frisbee players, teachers, a video team and hopefully a chef. Then we take the show on the road. Ever wanted to help teach an E.R.I.C. clinic? Interested in seeing what it’s like to share your sport with a lot of young receptive kids while teaching a great message? Now’s your chance, for the much-improved E.R.I.C. school clinic is wonderful to be a part of.
The thing I love about the clinics is that they teach youth to be healthy, active and aware of their bodies. It educates youth on cancer symptoms in non-scary way. They learn a new fun, non-contact sport and we show them how important Spirit of the Game is, which includes cheering for and respecting their fellow classmates, something that resonates well with them. We teach them to speak up and call their own fouls because ultimate at that age doesn’t and shouldn’t have referees, which helps them understand the incredible important skill of conflict resolution Finally we tell them to apply what they learned to life, respect and help others and when something feels wrong, to speak up and tell someone.
Thank you so much to all the people who have helped and contributed to getting E.R.I.C. this far. We have a long way to go, but the direct impact on youth around the world so far can all be attributed to you, your help, and your donations.
There are three ways you can help with this tour:
Donate — any funds raised through earlyrecognitioniscritical.org will cover costs directly related to the tour.
Connect — do you have a contact at a local middle school in any of the planned tour cities (see map below)? Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like E.R.I.C. to come to your school.
Follow — stay up with the latest from the tour via the E.R.I.C. Facebook page.